Streaming sports rights may be the final nail in the coffin for broadcast
The Future. To get a leg up on Netflix’s dominance, streaming services such as Amazon and ESPN+ are competing for exclusive broadcast rights to top league seasons. The existing deals are already a huge driver of growth (and are taking eyeballs away from network channels)… but as companies get ready to roll out community engagement features like betting and chat features, the potential for these services may barely be tapped.
Sports — that last bastion of traditional TV viewership — may find a new stadium to play in. Amazon, NBCUniversal, Disney, and ViacomCBS are all trying to draft exclusive deals.
- Amazon was the first-ever streamer to lock up rights to the NFL’s Thursday Night Football and also secured rights for the WNBA.
- NBCUniversal made its biggest streaming bet yet by taking on the Tokyo Olympics coverage… which led to the biggest sign-up surge for the service.
- Disney’s ESPN+ is slowly overtaking ESPN as the go-to sports destination for the company, taking exclusive rights to UFC and most top Tennis Opens.
- ViacomCBS’s late-coming Paramount+ touts its live-sports content as a key reason to subscribe, offering The Masters and March Madness in its slate.
Rumors are that WarnerMedia’s HBO Max may also get in on the game, possibly airing NHL games after the league signed a new deal with Turner Sports.
Full court press
Other than high viewership, streamers want sports because… well… advertisers love sports. Cross Screen Media CEO Michael Beach notes that “advertisers are, at the national level, willing to pay more for sports than just about anything else advertising-wise.”
As several companies prepare to leverage digital platforms to introduce sports betting, chat features, and other gamified bonus features, sports streaming is still in its infancy.